TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Does A Law School's Duty To Its Students End At Graduation?

Texas A&M Law Logo (2016)Courthouse News Service, Texas Law School Wants Class Action Tossed:

Texas Wesleyan University says it need not grant its law school graduates alumni status with Texas A&M University, which bought Wesleyan's law school, and seeks dismissal of a federal class action against both colleges.

More than 30 graduates of then-private Texas Wesleyan University School of Law sued both schools in August.

Texas A&M, in College Station, agreed to buy Texas Wesleyan's downtown Fort Worth law school in June 2012, converting it into the first public law school in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Since the purchase closed in 2013, the law school's new graduates have been accepted as Texas A&M alumni, have the updated Texas A&M school name on their diplomas and are eligible to receive Aggie rings.

The plaintiffs claim Texas A&M's refusal to reissue pre-acquisition graduates law diplomas with the updated school name "has damaged the disavowed graduates, who have lost the ability to easily show that their juris doctor degrees are valid to potential employers and clients, as their law school is no longer easily located on many lists of accredited law schools."

Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan filed separate motions to dismiss Monday. Texas Wesleyan said that any contractual obligation it owed to the plaintiffs "ended with their graduation."

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December 16, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Muller:  1L Enrollment Is At 42-Year Low

ABAFollowing up on yesterday's post, ABA Releases 2015 Standard 509 Information Reports For Every Law School:  Derek Muller (Pepperdine), Total Law School Enrollment at Lowest Point Since 1977; 1L Class Size Lowest Since 1973:

The ABA has recent released its statistics for the Class of 2018, or matriculation and law school enrollment for 2015. First-year matriculants totaled 37,058 at 204 ABA-accredited law schools. That's down from 52,488 in 2010. And that's the lowest number since 1973, when 37,018 matriculated to 151 law schools.

December 16, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (23)

Tax Court:  92 Year Old Sumner Redstone Liable For Gift Tax On 1972 Gift

Hollywood Reporter, Sumner Redstone Loses to IRS in Tax Case Four Decades in the Making:

As the 92-year-old billionaire Sumner Redstone witnesses a vicious court fight over his mental condition, the U.S. Tax Court has released a decision [Redstone v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2015-237 (Dec. 9, 2015)] that delves into the beginnings of his media empire, his connection to the early-1970s Watergate scandal and four decades of in-fighting in the Redstone family.

The case is extraordinary, to say the least. The core question in Redstone's dispute with the Internal Revenue Service pertains to whether his 1972 transfer of stock to his children was a taxable "gift" or not. Ultimately, the Tax Court affirms a tax deficiency of $737,625, but lets him off the hook for fraud. ...

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December 16, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Baseball And The Law: Cases And Materials

BaseballLouis H. Schiff (Judge, 17th Judicial Circuit, Florida) & Robert M. Jarvis (Nova), Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press, 2016):

Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials explores the jurisprudence of baseball through 110 principal readings, 619 notes, and 26 photographs. After an introductory chapter that acquaints students with the sport and the role lawyers have played in its development, the authors proceed to examine a multitude of legal issues, from player salaries, franchise relocations, and steroids to fan safety, broadcast rights, and gambling. Special attention is paid to racial and sexual discrimination; tax planning, asset protection, and bankruptcy; and the burgeoning use of technology. A concluding chapter focuses on amateur and youth baseball.

The book draws on a variety of materials—including court decisions, arbitration awards, law review articles, newspapers stories, and blog posts—to place baseball in three different contexts: cultural, historical, and legal.

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December 16, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 951

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, The IRS Targets Political Donors:

The IRS regulatory assault on political nonprofits continues, albeit out of the media glare. In September the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department proposed a rule to give 501(c)(3) charities the “option” of filing detailed reports on every donor who contributes more than $250. These reports would include names, addresses and Social Security numbers. Oh, oh.

While the IRS says the rule is “voluntary,” in government that’s often a prelude to compulsory. The legitimate fear in the nonprofit world, on the right and left, is that this is a first step toward making such donor lists mandatory, and then applying the requirement to every nonprofit—including the conservative social-welfare organizations that the IRS helped to shut down in the 2012 presidential election. ...

Many taxpayers will also lack confidence that nonprofits, which are often small operations staffed by volunteers, can safeguard their information. The proposed regulation is an invitation to fraud and identity theft by creating an opportunity for scam artists to claim to be charities and solicit Social Security numbers.

This year the IRS was forced by public outrage to shelve a different regulation that sought to limit the amount of political activity social-welfare organizations can engage in. The new rule looks like an attempt to achieve a similar result by drying up contributions. The rule’s public comment period ends Wednesday, but Democrats and Republicans in Congress should work together to put this one on ice.

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December 16, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

ABA Releases 2015 Standard 509 Information Reports For Every Law School

ABAThe ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar has released the 2015 Standard 509 Information Reports for every law school.  Keith Lee has mined the enrollment data and produced two great charts showing the change in enrollment over two time periods:

2011 to 2015:

  • 17 law schools increased enrollment
  • 7 schools increased enrollment by at least 10%
  • 98 ranked schools decreased enrollment by at least 10%
  • 10 schools decreased enrollment by at least 40%:

2011-2015

2014 to 2015:

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December 15, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Burke Reviews Kahng's Taxation of Intellectual Capital

Karen C. Burke (Florida), Comments on Taxation of Intellectual Capital: Better than Consumption-Tax Treatment?, 66 Fla. L. Rev. F. 47 (2015):

In The Taxation of Intellectual Capital, [66 Fla. L. Rev. 2229 (2014),] Professor Lily Kahng argues that U.S. tax law is fundamentally flawed because it allows businesses to “expense” investments in self-created intangibles. The article draws on research in related areas (knowledge management, financial accounting, and national accounting) that seeks to identify and measure “intellectual capital,” “a central driver of economic productivity and growth.” Within the framework of a normative income tax, Professor Kahng argues that businesses should be required to capitalize and amortize investments in a broad array of intangibles, including research and development, advertising, and employee-training expenses. 

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December 15, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Alstott:  Taxation In Six Concepts

AnneAnne L. Alstott (Yale), Taxation in Six Concepts: A Student's Guide (Wolters Kluwer 2015):

Tax doctrines rest on a handful of concepts -- just six, in fact. Armed with six concepts, you can decipher the law. In the United States, more so than in any other developed country, the tax law hosts many of the government s most important social and economic policies. Health care, housing, financial markets, education,and poverty, for example, involve tax. In short, tax turns out to host many interesting and pressing public policy problems.

This book introduces the six concepts and uses them to unpack leading cases and real-world transactions. The six are valuation, net income, realization, tax deferral, substance over form and income-shifting. The cases discussed involve one (or two) of the six concepts discussed. This book also looks beyond the classroom. At every step, real-world transactions are included to show how tax planning harks back to the six concepts.

Of course, tax law, like all law, is full of ambiguity and contradiction. Sometimes there is no single right answer. Courts reach conflicting decisions and use inconsistent reasoning. But the six concepts explain the conflicts within the law that give rise to ambiguity and uncertainty.

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December 15, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

WSJ: The Surprising Relationship Between Taxes And Charitable Giving

Wall Street Journal, The Surprising Relationship Between Taxes and Charitable Giving:

Researchers have been studying how taxes lead people to donate—or not. Here are the subtle and surprising results.

When it comes to charitable giving, it’s well known that taxes matter. The promise of a big deduction is a great way to get people to open their checkbooks.

Yet the relationship between taxes and giving isn’t as simple as it looks.

Researchers have been studying the issue for years, some by sifting through masses of tax-return data, others by handing people money and seeing how their donation decisions change when they are “taxed” in various ways. The results show that the money and taxes relationship is a lot more nuanced than the idea that a bigger deduction means a bigger donation—with significant implications for both charities and policy makers.

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December 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tax Profs Christine Allie And Stuart Lazar Find Love At AALS, Marry At Tax Court

WaPoWashington Post, On Love: Christine Allie & Stuart Lazar:

It took only an hour with Christine Allie to convince Stuart Lazar that she was someone special. He knew he had to make their first date extraordinary, but how?

Buffalo, N.Y., his home base at the time, just wouldn’t cut it. So, he decided to email Christine a round-trip ticket to Paris.

“It was a chance, but it was worth it,” Stuart says. “And I’d do it again with her in a heartbeat.”

The two tax law professors — Christine teaches at the Delaware Law School at Widener University and Stuart at the SUNY Buffalo Law School — had met in Washington at an Association of American Law Schools conference in early January 2015. They connected during a cocktail hour for attendees at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. ...

Christine, 36, and Stuart, 47, chatted briefly before they shook hands and went their separate ways. Later that night, he sent her a short message on LinkedIn, saying how great it was meeting her. She responded quickly and invited him for drinks the next evening with colleagues at Clyde’s in Chinatown. ...

The couple exchanged vows Nov. 14 at the U.S. Tax Court in Washington. “It was my first choice,” Stuart says. “The whole [wedding] is inspired by what we’ve done. We are both tax professors who practice tax law and met here in Washington. It all came together, and we were very fortunate.”

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December 15, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Lobel:  The IRS Is In Crisis And The Tax Community Needs To Help

Martin Lobel (Lobel Novins & Lamont, Washington, D.C.; Chair, Tax Analysts' Board of Directors), The IRS Is in Crisis and the Tax Community Needs to Help, 149 Tax Notes 1407 (Dec. 14, 2015):

We are on the edge of a precipice. Unless those who know the importance of the IRS take action, we are on the verge of losing the respect and, indeed, fear of the IRS that makes it such an effective revenue raiser. And, without sufficient revenue, we don't have a government that can meet our essential needs.

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December 15, 2015 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Icahn:  How To Stop Turning U.S. Corporations Into Tax Exiles

PfizerNew York Times op-ed:  How to Stop Turning U.S. Corporations Into Tax Exiles, by Carl C. Icahn (Chair, Icahn Enterprises):

The Pfizer-Allergan deal is a travesty. Pfizer, which is based in New York, will move overseas by merging with Allergan, based in Ireland, in a maneuver known as a corporate inversion. The point isn’t to find corporate synergy. It is to leave behind our uncompetitive international tax system.

Not only is this the largest inversion in history, but it will also open the floodgates for other companies to leave the United States, further eroding our tax base, damaging our economy and costing many thousands of jobs. ...

This is not just me speculating. I have spoken to many chief executives who confirm they are planning to follow Pfizer’s lead. But while this inversion has set off a firestorm of public statements by our leading presidential candidates and other politicians, Congress continues to do nothing.

Recently, Hillary Clinton came out against this mechanism and proposed slowing the pace of future inversions by tightening regulation and imposing an exit tax on companies leaving. While I applaud her for speaking out publicly, her proposal is flawed because it fails to fix the underlying problem: Our international tax code is disadvantageous to companies based in the United States, as most countries now employ a territorial tax system, which allows companies to pay taxes only where the money is earned. More important, we can’t afford to wait more than a year for the election of a new president to take action, as we will lose many more companies in the interim.

Fortunately, there is a very simple and immediately available solution. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Rob Portman of Ohio have created a bipartisan framework for international tax reform that is supported by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Kevin Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

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December 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hubbard:  Pfizer-Allergan Merger Is 'Self-Help Tax Reform'

PfizerBusiness Insider op-ed:  The Year's Largest Takeover Is 'Self-Help Tax Reform', by Glenn Hubbard (Dean, Columbia Business School):

Last month’s announcement of the $160 billion combination of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the smaller Irish cousin Allergan drew a harrumph from the US Treasury on so called ‘inversion’ deals.

But Pfizer’s move was legitimate, good for its shareholders and likely beneficial for US drug consumers, and highlights key tax problems being ignored by the Treasury Secretary.

Pfizer-Allergan’s headquarters move to Ireland will significantly reduce the company’s worldwide and US tax burden, benefiting Pfizer’s shareholders. ...

The transaction lays bare the idea that the United States, in a globally competitive market for capital, can defend the highest corporate tax rate of any industrialized nation.

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December 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 950

IRS Logo 2Going Concern:  Some People Still Care About the IRS Scandal, by Caleb Newquist:

Pepperdine tax law professor Paul Caron has been keeping track of the media coverage of the IRS scandal since its beginning, even if most people stopped paying attention to those stories years ago. [Last Tuesday] he thought that he might give up the feature because "the scandal has gone mostly quiet" but [he was] back to it [last Wednesday] with Day 944 even though there is virtually no news about it. Maybe he can start counting the days that Donald Trump remains in the presidential race?

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December 15, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pew:  The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground

Pew 2APew Research Center, The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground:

After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

In at least one sense, the shift represents economic progress: While the share of U.S. adults living in both upper- and lower-income households rose alongside the declining share in the middle from 1971 to 2015, the share in the upper-income tier grew more.

Over the same period, however, the nation’s aggregate household income has substantially shifted from middle-income to upper-income households, driven by the growing size of the upper-income tier and more rapid gains in income at the top. Fully 49% of U.S. aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. The share accruing to middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down substantially from 62% in 1970.

And middle-income Americans have fallen further behind financially in the new century. In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013.

Meanwhile, the far edges of the income spectrum have shown the most growth. In 2015, 20% of American adults were in the lowest-income tier, up from 16% in 1971. On the opposite side, 9% are in the highest-income tier, more than double the 4% share in 1971. At the same time, the shares of adults in the lower-middle or upper-middle income tiers were nearly unchanged.

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December 14, 2015 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Taite:  Crummey Delivers Another Knockout Punch To The IRS

Phyllis C. Taite (Florida A&M), Crummey Delivers Another Knockout Punch to the IRS, 149 Tax Notes 839 (Nov. 9, 2015):

In this article, Taite discusses Mikel v. Commissioner, [T.C. Memo. 2015-64 (Apr. 6, 2015),] in which the Tax Court addressed whether the donors qualified for the annual exclusion for gifts made to a trust with an in terrorem provision and a mandatory arbitration clause.

December 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forman & Mann:  Making The IRS Work

Florida Tax ReviewJonathan Barry Forman (Oklahoma) & Roberta F. Mann (Oregon), Making the Internal Revenue Service Work, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. 725 (2015):

This is an Article about how to redesign the federal tax system so that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can administer it more effectively given that Congress is only willing to let the IRS have around 82,000 employees and a $12 billion budget. As the IRS Oversight Board and the National Taxpayer Advocate frequently emphasize, the United States underinvests in the IRS, and that underinvesting means that taxpayer services are suffering and that tax enforcement has been significantly weakened.

With budget deficits for “as far as the eye can see” and the recent IRS troubles with tax-exempt political organizations, the prospects for increased funding for the IRS are remote. In this Article, we consider a variety of approaches that would make it easier for the IRS to raise and collect revenue, and we offer a number of recommendations for legislative and administrative changes. For example, we recommend simplifying the tax system, enhancing third-party reporting, and streamlining the tax-filing and dispute-resolution procedures.

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December 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

How Microsoft Moves Profits Offshore to Cut its Tax Bill

Microsoft (2015)Seattle Times, How Microsoft Moves Profits Offshore to Cut its Tax Bill:

When someone buys a copy of Office at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square, that cash doesn’t take the short route to the company’s Redmond headquarters four miles up the road. Instead, after accounting for state taxes, the profit goes to a Microsoft sales subsidiary in Nevada. From there, much of that money begins a complicated global trek that ultimately leads across the Atlantic, with two stops on the island tax haven of Bermuda.

Microsoft 2Microsoft in the past 20 years built that network of subsidiaries in part to minimize the taxes it pays to governments worldwide.

The company is hardly alone. Many multinational corporations have set up similar structures, in some cases reducing their tax burden to near zero.

But a court fight this year between Microsoft and the Internal Revenue Service brought to light new documents outlining the deals that set up the company’s structure. Additional court papers, corporate filings and tax records from four continents offer a rare, detailed look at the business of avoiding taxes. ...

The type of structures Microsoft has created are legal, and company representatives say Microsoft pays the appropriate amount of taxes in the countries in which it operates. ...

Microsoft’s tax practices are a contradiction for a company that bills itself as a model corporate citizen, some tax experts and business-ethics scholars say.

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December 14, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer

DevelopingE. Scott Fruehwald (Contributing Editor, Legal Skills Prof Blog), Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer (2015):

"Who will I be as a lawyer? This is the most important question any law student can ask. Yet, in traditional legal education, this question rarely comes up. The purpose of this book is to change this.

Professional identity is a lawyer’s personal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness in relation to the practices of the legal profession (legal culture). It provides the framework that a lawyer uses to make all a lawyer’s decisions.

This book takes a variety of approaches to help you develop your professional identity. Chapter One asks you to take a close look at yourself by asking questions about your childhood, your college years, and who you are today. It is important to know who you are before you can fit into a profession. Chapters Two (Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner), Six (Overcoming Cognitive Biases), and Seven (Attorney Well-Being) give you the tools you will need to develop your professional identity. Chapter Two introduces you to “practical wisdom,” an important approach to understanding and solving ethical problems.

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December 14, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times:  Seton Hall 1L With 161 LSAT On Full Ride $150k Scholarship Also Plays Division I Basketball For Pirates

AndersonNew York Times, A College Basketball Player Who Is Also a Law School Student:

The circulation desk was still closed early on a recent Monday morning in the Peter W. Rodino Jr. Library, on the fourth level of the Seton Hall School of Law, where Braeden Anderson settled by a desk in the corner. ... Like most of the other first-year law students, he had almost every minute of the unfolding day mapped out. Except that his schedule included basketball practice that afternoon. ... He has learned to thrive on less sleep — five, maybe six hours — than is recommended for a Division I athlete, and tailored his diet to handle the toll that the academic-athletic duality of his life can take. But Anderson is not one to complain. ...

At 6 feet 9 inches, with thick tattooed arms, Anderson, 23, would make an imposing courtroom presence. On the court for the Pirates (7-2), he plays sparingly but aggressively, pursuing rebounds with abandon and setting an active tone on defense. A graduate transfer from Fresno State, Anderson is a selfless role player, comfortable setting screens, running the floor and moving the ball. ...

Anderson scored 161 in one attempt on his Law School Admission Test, landing him in the 82nd percentile. He seriously weighed an offer from Penn State’s law school, but with no basketball option. Finally, Seton Hall gave him the chance to test his skills in both arenas. ...

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December 14, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Puckett:  Structural Tax Exceptionalism

James M. Puckett (Penn State), Structural Tax Exceptionalism, 50 Ga. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

This Article argues that it is misleading to declare the death of tax exceptionalism and that structural tax exceptionalism may have important benefits. Part II provides a brief historical overview of the rise of federal agency administration of statutes and especially tax laws. The history trends to detract from anti-tax and anti-agency rhetoric that counsel disempowering the Treasury Department and other administrative agencies from comprehensively enforcing laws and making policy in their relevant domains.

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December 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gay Stetson Law Prof Challenges IRS's Denial Of Deduction For In-Vitro Fertilization, Surrogacy Expenses

MorrisseyTampa Tribune, Gay Parents Sue After IRS Denies Tax Deduction for In-Vitro Fertilization, Surrogate:

Is being gay, in a long-term committed relationship, the same as being biologically infertile? That’s the argument being made by a Stetson law professor in a lawsuit against the federal government.

Joseph F. Morrissey, who teaches constitutional and business law at Stetson, is seeking to overturn a ruling by the IRS that denied him and his partner a tax deduction. The deduction would have been for costs associated with their use of in-vitro fertilization and a surrogate who gave birth to their twin sons.

An IRS revenue agent who denied the claim said Morrissey’s sexual orientation was a “choice,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa. ...

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December 14, 2015 in IRS News, Legal Education, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Releases Proposed Revisions To Law School Accreditation Standards For Notice And Comment

ABA Logo 2The ABA last Thursday released this memorandum:

At its meeting held on December 4-5, 2015, the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved for Notice and Comment the following proposed revisions to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools:

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December 14, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 949

IRS Logo 2Washington Times:  Who Will Stop the IRS?, by Judson Phillips (Founder, Tea Party Nation):

The Internal Revenue Service. Those are four words that will cause fear in almost every American. There is something seriously wrong when America has a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people; and the American people have to be afraid of the government.

The Obama regime weaponized the IRS for use against conservatives in 2010. After the IRS scandal became public in 2013, conservatives looked to Republicans in Washington. The House of Representatives took no action against the IRS. At a time when then House Speaker John Boehner could have incarcerated Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center, but chose not to.

Emboldened by the failure of the Republicans to act, the IRS is moving again. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service proposed a regulation that would “give” non-profits, including 501C4 groups, the “option” of recording the Social Security numbers of donors who contribute $250 or more.

What could possibly go wrong?

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December 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Did Lack Of Ideological Diversity On Ohio State Law School Faculty Contribute To Administration's Hostile Treatment Of 2L Over Her Pro-Life Op-Ed?

Ohio State LogoFollowing up on my previous posts:

The Volokh Conspiracy:  A Dust-Up Over Dissenting Views at Ohio State Law, by Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western):

In the wake of campus protests against institutional racism, a law student penned a provocative op-ed in a national newspaper expressing sympathy with the Black Lives Matter movement. The article touched a nerve. Some students liked the op-ed, but many others did not. Some were offended, and some were outraged. Accusations and angry messages appeared on social media. Some were hostile. One could have been read as a veiled threat.

The student author was distraught, felt unsafe and sought out school administrators. The student may have overreacted — mistaking a typically intemperate social media posting for a threat of harm — but the fear was real. The student met with three of the school’s deans. Instead of support, however, the student faced an inquisition. In the hour-long meeting the administrators picked apart the student’s article, scrutinizing specific sentences and claims, suggesting it should never have been written and recommending the student participate in facilitated discussions with other students who may have been offended by the article.

After such an experience, would the student writer feel welcome on campus? Would the student think the campus had a meaningful commitment to viewpoint diversity? Indeed, how would BLM activists respond if concerns from a like-minded student were received in such a hostile and unsympathetic manner? I think we have our answer. At campuses around the country mere indifference from school administrators has been enough to spark angry protests.

The above account is not entirely hypothetical. It is essentially what Ohio State law student Madison Gesiotto alleges occurred when she wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times responding to BLM protests. Instead of endorsing BLM protests, however, Ms. Gesiotto suggested they were misguided. ...

The school administrators may have disagreed with her op-ed, but it was (as far as things go nowadays) rather mild and expressed a viewpoint that is fairly common in the United States today (even if it’s a viewpoint almost wholly absent from the Ohio State Moritz College of Law faculty). Assuming Ms. Gesiotto’s account is accurate, she would have received one message loud and clear: The real problem here is her point of view. ...

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December 13, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (18)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is quite a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new #1 paper and a new paper debuting on the list at #5:

  1. [252 Downloads]  2015 Trying Times: Important Lessons to Be Learned from Recent Federal Tax Cases, by Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah) & Steven J. Small (Law Office of Stephen J. Small, Newton, MA)
  2. [195 Downloads]  The Three Causes of Inversions: Reflections on Pfizer/Allergan and Notice 2015-79, by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan)
  3. [177 Downloads]  Friends with Tax Benefits: Apple's Cautionary Tale, by Allison Christians (McGill)
  4. [163 Downloads]  The State Administration Of International Tax Avoidance, by Omri Y. Marian (UC-Irvine)
  5. [120 Downloads]  The Effect of Profit Shifting on the Corporate Tax Base in the United States and Beyond, by Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College)

December 13, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times:  L.A. Churches Make Worship ... Hip?

MosaicNew York Times, Los Angeles Churches Make Worship ... Hip?:

Just before 10 a.m. on a sunny Sunday in November, a crowd gathered in front of a white modernist building here on Hollywood Boulevard. ... They sought not physical but spiritual nourishment. The building? Mosaic, a church that counts thousands of young people among its congregants, offering sermons rife with pop-culture references, musical performances that look like Coachella, and a brand cultivated for social media. ...

While Christianity is on a decline in the United States, at Mosaic and other churches like it in the Los Angeles area, the religion is thriving. “We have a hundred people every week who come to faith in Jesus,” Erwin McManus, Mosaic’s founder and lead pastor, said after the first of four services that Sunday.

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December 13, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 948

IRS Logo 2Liberty News Now, Obama Sending IRS After Conservatives Again?:

Considering the Obama Administration’s well-documented willingness to use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a political weapon to intimidate, silence and bankrupt organizations and individuals who oppose the president, a proposed IRS rule to force charities, churches and nonprofits to report the Social Security numbers of donors to the IRS could dry up donations and run them out of business.

In response to the proposed rule, the Tea Party Patriots – a target of the IRS in the past – has launched a nationwide email and social media campaign encouraging supporters and conservative leaders to kill the proposed a rule before it is finalized and becomes law. ...

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation cited recent revelations that the IRS leaked confidential donor information filed by conservative groups, to the news media and political opposition groups. “Just think if they had leaked not only the names of the donors, but Social Security numbers,” von Spakovsky said. “I don’t trust the government to have that information, and there’s no reason for them to have that information.”

In the aftermath of leaks by the IRS of confidential donor information submitted by conservative groups by law, donors came under withering attack in the media and radical left groups seeking to dry up financial donations to targeted groups.

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December 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Lawsuit By 12 Graduates Against Thomas Jefferson Law School Over Placement Data Heads To Trial In March

Thomas Jefferson Logo (2015)ABC News, Lawsuits Part of Call for More Transparency at Law Schools:

Nikki Nguyen left a $50,000-a-year job at Boeing Co. in 2006 to pursue a law degree at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, her sister's successful career as a corporate attorney providing a glimpse of the possibilities she imagined ahead of her.

Instead, she struggled for more than a year to find a job after she graduated and watched her student loan debt of over $180,000 balloon.

Nguyen, 34, is among 12 former Thomas Jefferson students who are suing the university in a California court, accusing it of inflating its graduates' employment figures and salaries to attract students. "They weren't transparent," said Nguyen, whose case is scheduled to go to trial in March. "People who have a dream of law school should go into it with their eyes wide open." ...

Nguyen's lawsuit is among more than a dozen similar ones filed in recent years against law schools, including Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and the University of San Francisco School of Law. Though most of the suits have been dismissed, critics say they point to a need for greater regulation and transparency for law schools, so prospective students know their employment prospects, the debt they will incur and even their chances of successfully passing the bar.

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December 12, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Obama Pick For Top Tax Lawyer Stalls On Pastor-Politics Issue

CanoFollowing up on Wednesday's post, Tax Lawyers Urge Rapid Confirmation Of Cono Namorato As Assistant Attorney General For The Tax Division:  Chicago Tribune, Obama Pick for Top Tax Lawyer Stalls on Pastor-Politics Issue:

President Barack Obama's nominee to serve as the top U.S. tax prosecutor has stalled over an obscure letter he wrote seven years ago questioning the legal tactics of a group that wants pastors to speak out on politics.

The standoff involves Cono Namorato, a Washington defense attorney and former government lawyer, who was nominated Feb. 24 to serve as the assistant attorney general over the Justice Department's tax division. The outcome will determine the leadership of the division's 370 criminal and civil lawyers, who pursue offshore tax evasion and other investigations.

Namorato, 73, won bipartisan praise at his July 22 hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never got a confirmation vote from that panel. In response, a group of former Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service officials wrote this week to urge the committee to approve Namorato. ...

Behind the scenes, some members of the judiciary panel have concerns. After Namorato's hearing Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the panel's chairman, asked him about a 2008 letter he co-signed that urged the IRS to investigate the actions of lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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December 12, 2015 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 947

IRS Logo 2The Blaze, IRS Power Grab? Deadline Looming for Public Comment on New Rule to Gain Social Security Numbers of Certain Donors:

Next week marks the deadline for public comment on a new Internal Revenue Service rule giving the tax agency access to the Social Security numbers of donors to certain nonprofit group.

For a tax-collecting agency still under a cloud for accusations of targeting of conservative and Tea Party organizations, the proposed rule has sparked immense concerns. The final deadline for public comment is Dec. 16.

“The IRS needs less information from nonprofits and less opportunity to go after donors for harassing them,” Cleta Mitchell, an attorney for Tea Party groups, told TheBlaze. “I wish they would stop looking for ways to harm people.” ...

In addition to the targeting of conservative groups, in at least one case, an IRS employee leaked information about a conservative organization. The House Ways and Means Committee is investigating the IRS for leaking donor information from the pro-traditional marriage National Organization of Marriage to the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

In a statement, the IRS insisted there have been “major misimpressions” about the proposed rule.

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December 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rutgers Faculty Rebels Against Use Of Metrics To Assess Their Scholarly Performance

AAInside Higher Ed, Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula:

Rutgers faculty members, citing philosophical concerns and errors, are pushing back against the use of Academic Analytics to evaluate their productivity. 

With the advent of Google Scholar and other metrics for faculty productivity, advancing one’s career as a professor is much more of a numbers game than it used to be. Still, the traditional system of peer review in hiring, tenure and promotion decisions has retained a good deal of nuance. Scholars in the same field as those they’re evaluating know that while one project may not be as prestigious as another, for example, a good degree of academic innovation might be worth a little professional risk.

But is that system under threat? Full-time faculty members at Rutgers University at New Brunswick say that it may be, in light of the university’s contract with a faculty productivity monitoring company called Academic Analytics.

Rutgers professors say they don't need the system, which is based on a patented algorithm for measuring faculty productivity, and that what little data they’ve been able to obtain to so far include some serious errors. On Monday, the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences will vote on a faculty union-backed resolution asking the university not to use Academic Analytics data in personnel and curricular decisions, and to give faculty members access to data collected by the company. ...

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December 11, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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December 11, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Fleischer:  Yahoo’s Spinoff Plan Does Not Change Its Tax Risk

YahooNew York Times Deal Book: Yahoo’s Spinoff Plan Does Not Change Its Tax Risk, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

Does the direction of the spin matter? Not for tax purposes.

Yahoo called off its plans to spin off its stake in Alibaba in a statement on Wednesday. The Yahoo board did not say that it was concerned about the tax risk. Instead, the board did a peculiar little dance. It reaffirmed its view that the transaction, a “forward” spin, would have been tax-free to the company and its shareholders. And then it acknowledged that the change of plans reflected concern about “the market’s perception of tax risk.”

The board’s careful choice of words — perception of tax risk, not actual tax risk — reveals that it is a true believer in sophisticated tax planning as the path to salvation. Instead of a “forward” spin, Yahoo is now planning a “reverse” spinoff, with the company’s core business assets and its stake in Yahoo Japan to be placed in a newly formed subsidiary distributed to shareholders, leaving its stake in Alibaba behind.

I’m flummoxed. With respect to the relevant tax issues, the direction of the spin does not matter. Corporate tax can be exceedingly formalistic, but not in this case. ...

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December 11, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

College Endowments Are Flourishing Again — And Critics Are Taking Note

Chronicle of Philanthropy: College Endowments Are Flourishing Again — and Critics Are Taking Note, by Ben Gose:

Victor Fleischer, a professor of law at the University of San Diego, kicked off the endowment-bashing this year with an August opinion piece in The New York Times. He opened with a startling statistic: Yale University paid about $480 million to its private-equity managers in 2014, nearly three times the amount that the endowment paid out for tuition assistance, fellowships, and prizes.

That column got the attention of Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling author, who took to Twitter and National Public Radio to complain about how taxpayers were subsidizing the income of hedge funds and private-equity funds through elite-college endowments. "I was going to donate money to Yale," he tweeted. "But maybe it makes more sense to mail a check directly to the hedge fund of my choice."

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December 11, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Christians:  Understanding The Accidental American — Tina's Story

AccidentalAllison Christians (McGill), Understanding the Accidental American: Tina's Story:

I would like to tell you a story about the taxpayer's right to know what the law requires of her and to have the law administered fairly. This is just one story based on things happening now, but it is a common story. I'm telling this story instead of giving an exposition on the underlying legal texts because sometimes the rules are too complicated and too technical for anyone to really understand, even tax lawyers. Moreover, reading the law itself doesn't explain what isn't written on the books, which can matter more in how things play out in human terms. As you will see, the implementation of the law gives rise to a taxpayers' rights issue — one that wouldn't be clear from reciting the law alone.

The story I am going to tell you is about a woman named Tina. She's Canadian. She is 62. Tina is nearing retirement age and has been a cautious and diligent person all her life, carefully saving for her old age following the textbook investment advice that tells us we should invest in low-load pooled investment vehicles — mutual funds — and hang onto them for the long term.

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December 11, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tax Prof Beer

PeroniCliff Fleming (BYU!) passed along this Christmas gift idea:  a 24-pack of the only beer named after a tax professor:  Peroni Beer.  Like its namesake Bob Peroni (Texas), reviewers say the beer is "robust," "earthy," "full-bodied" and "underrated."  Here is a full review:

The first time I had Peroni was in Boston while picking up my sister from college. My parents and I had walked the Freedom Trail and took a detour for some dinner in Little Italy. While most think that wine should be the standard drink of choice when in an Italian restaurant I have new for you. Have you ever tried a beer with your pasta? Normally, I stick with my favorite dish Fettuccine Alfredo, but that day a bowtie pasta with Vodka sauce caught my eye. Taking a quick look at the beverages Peroni seemed to be the best fit. After all it is brewed in Italy and I was in “little Italy” enjoying a nice Italian dish.

Fast forward a year to yesterday when I went attended a dinner party. The host prepared a wonderful meal of spaghetti and with meat sauce. I was responsible for beverages so what do you think I purchased? Peroni!!!

The back label says that it is the “No. 1 premium Italian beer” that has “an intensely crisp and refreshing taste with an unmistakable touch of Italian style.” I’m not sure what the “unmistakable style” was, but the rest of the quote was dead on. This beer went amazingly well with the pastas I had on both occasions. There is great carbonation to lift away medium-heavy sauces and cleans the palate for the next bite. It is very clear almost to the point of being mesmerizing. The aroma is of a classic lager/pilsner. Light malts, slight hints of sulfur from the yeast, and a mild spicy hop presence. The mouthfeel is similar to Pilsner Urquell and the finish is dry.

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December 11, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 946

IRS Logo 2Washington Times op-ed, Why IRS Commish John Koskinen Must be Impeached, by Jenny Beth Martin (President & Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Failing to comply with a subpoena for evidence in a major investigation; lying under oath in testimony before Congress; providing misleading and inaccurate information to Congress; hampering an ongoing investigation into the targeting of innocent American citizens. These are all serious offenses, violations of the public trust.

John Koskinen, the current IRS Commissioner, committed each one. Incredibly, he has not been removed from his post. Americans, are understandably disgusted that the rules that apply to the rest of us appear not to apply to government officials who enjoy comfortable jobs with guaranteed pension packages. ...

Apparently, some in Congress misunderstand the function of impeachment. They seem to think impeachment is a tool to be used only against a government official proven guilty of committing a crime. But impeachment is not a legal remedy; it is a political remedy.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 65, impeachment was meant as a remedy for “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

In an age where the Justice Department is unwilling to prosecute those seen to be doing the president’s will, even in violation of the law - or, at the very least, the public trust - impeachment is the necessary and appropriate response.

At the heart of our system of government, and in fact the entire fabric of our society, is the notion of trust. Americans must be able to trust our government and have confidence that the IRS has not become a political weapon silencing people who disagree with the current administration. For violating the public trust, and for damaging the public’s faith in the integrity of our government, Mr. Koskinen must be removed from his position. There is simply no better first step to restore the public’s confidence in our government.

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December 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scheve Presents Taxing The Rich: A History Of Fiscal Fairness In The U.S. And Europe At Columbia

TaxingKenneth Scheve (Stanford) presented Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe (Princeton University Press, 2016) (with David Stasavage (NYU)) at Columbia on Tuesday as part of its Davis Polk & Wardwell Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex Raskolnikov and Wojciech Kopczuk:

In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens—and their answers may surprise you.

Taxing the Rich draws on unparalleled evidence from twenty countries over the last two centuries to provide the broadest and most in-depth history of progressive taxation available. Scheve and Stasavage explore the intellectual and political debates surrounding the taxation of the wealthy while also providing the most detailed examination to date of when taxes have been levied against the rich and when they haven't. Fairness in debates about taxing the rich has depended on different views of what it means to treat people as equals and whether taxing the rich advances or undermines this norm. Scheve and Stasavage argue that governments don't tax the rich just because inequality is high or rising—they do it when people believe that such taxes compensate for the state unfairly privileging the wealthy. Progressive taxation saw its heyday in the twentieth century, when compensatory arguments for taxing the rich focused on unequal sacrifice in mass warfare. Today, as technology gives rise to wars of more limited mobilization, such arguments are no longer persuasive.

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December 10, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Death Of Dick Pugh

PughRichard C. Pugh, a long-time tax professor at San Diego, passed away on December 5 after a battle with cancer. From Dean Stephen Ferruolo:

Dick taught and wrote in the areas of corporate tax, international tax, international law, international criminal law and human rights. He joined our law faculty in 1989 after a prestigious career at Columbia University School of Law. Dick was instrumental in building USD's tax program. He not only set a standard of excellence that helped build the reputation of the law school, he was a paragon of the civility and collegiality that has endured among our distinguished faculty.

From Ed Kleinbard:

Richard Pugh, one of the leading international tax law scholars of his generation, and a mentor to hundreds of practicing lawyers and younger scholars, passed away Sunday.

Dick was a Rhodes Scholar. He joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton as an associate in 1958.  He left for a time to become a Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and in 1966-1968 served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division of the Department of Justice.  Dick returned to Cleary Gottlieb as a partner in July 1969.  

In 1989, Dick joined the faculty of the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was instrumental in building USD's tax program.  At USD, Dick taught and wrote in the areas of corporate tax, international tax, international law, international criminal law and human rights.

Dick set a standard of excellence that helped build the reputation of every institution with which he was affiliated. He was a paragon of the civility and collegiality that made one proud to be his colleague, and his calming presence and mentoring talents made a very significant contribution to the lives of all who were fortunate enough to work with him.

A memorial service will be held on December 23 at 11:00 AM at the Church of the Epiphany at 5450 Churchwood Dr, Oak Park, CA 91377, with a lunch reception to follow at his son Rich’s home in Westlake Village, California.

Dick's work at San Diego is remembered in the annual Richard C. Pugh Lecture in Tax Law & Policy:

  • 2010:  Eric Solomon (Director of National Tax Practice, Ernst & Young)
  • 2011:  Carr Ferguson (San Diego/Davis Polk & Wardwell)  
  • 2013:  Stephen Shay (Harvard)
  • 2014:  Ed Kleinbard (USC)
  • 2015:  Michael Graetz (Columbia/Yale)

I was honored to get to know Dick during my eleven summers teaching at San Diego and to participate in the tribute to Dick published at the 2010 dedication of his lecture series.  I am reprinting below the spotlight profile of Dick I published in June 2004:

 

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December 10, 2015 in Legal Education, Obituaries, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is Law School A Better Investment Than Medical School?

Greedy Associates, Is Law School a Better Investment Than Med School?:

Hey lawyers, ever wish you went to med school instead of spending three years and a ton of cash on your J.D.?

Well, you can be happy that you didn't. It turns out, doctors might actually be chumps. A new report suggests that law school has a better return on investment than med school.

The news comes from Credible, an online student loan refinancing company. Credible looked at its data for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other professions, to find out which degrees had the highest return on investment. That data suggests that a J.D. has a better ROI than an M.D. According to Credible:

Lawyers have a median student debt of $89,926, 90 percent of their median salary ($100K), whereas doctors have a median debt of $130,641, 98 percent of their median salary ($133K). Furthermore, the average starting salary of lawyers in the private sector is $84K, compared to the $55K doctors make in residency.

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December 10, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Hillary Clinton's Corporate Tax Reform Plan

Book Recommendations From The University Of Chicago Law School Faculty

Book

Book recommendations from the University of Chicago Law School faculty.

December 10, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

ABA Approves Merger Of William Mitchell And Hamline Law Schools

WMHABA Section on Legal Education Memorandum (Dec. 8, 2015):

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, at its meeting on December 4-5, 2015, granted acquiescence in the application submitted by Hamline University School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law to combine the two schools into Mitchell I Hamline School of Law, and to recognize the Mitchell I Hamline School of Law as a fully ABA-approved law school. The Council's acquiescence is effective immediately. The Mitchell I Hamline School of Law wi ll be led by President and Dean Mark C. Gordon and will be located on William Mitchell's existing campus, at 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN, 55105.

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December 10, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Herzig:  Why We Should Stop Slamming Mark Zuckerberg And Priscilla Chan’s Philanthropic Plans

CZWashington Post op-ed:  Why We Should Stop Slamming Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Philanthropic Plans, by David Herzig (Valparaiso):

For people who voluntarily decided to part with some $45 billion, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are getting absolutely skewered in the press. ... The promised donation has been questioned by both the conservative and liberal press. Both seemingly demonizing their decision to give 99 percent of their wealth to an entity engaged in charitable giving. Much of the vitriol directed toward them focuses on the preconceived notion of what charitable giving should look like. ...

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December 10, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)